The Things We Do For Free

I’ve always thought of myself as a somewhat picky eater, but really, I’m only picky if there’s a choice. Example: if my choices are a Burger King, Applebee’s or local restaurant, I’ll always choose the local guy. If the choice is Italian, Greek or Indian, I’ll pick according to what I feel like eating. If none of the choices seem appealing, or the place looks dodgy, I’ll go without.

This morning I was having breakfast at the Fleabagge Inne, and it was… acceptable. Bacon was okay (better than the American “streaky” type), the fried eggs were likewise okay, if a tad rubbery, the baked beans come out of a can just like everywhere else, and the coffee was, well, British (poor). To my Stateside Readers, it was like breakfast at the Grandy’s chain, only with worse coffee — but I never eat at Grandy’s. So why was I eating such a canteen-style breakfast here in London? It’s not like you can’t find a decent Full English anywhere, of course; so why here?

At first, I thought I was eating it just because it was free, but on reflection, it wasn’t just that: it was also because it was convenient (just downstairs, as opposed to walking around looking for a place) and, as I realized while eating, it was actually no different from the many hundreds of breakfasts I’d had at boarding school as a boy. In other words, while I’ve become a fussy eater, I’ve had far worse breakfasts before. I don’t really mind compromising when it’s convenient — and I’m only here for a couple of days anyway before heading up to Scottishland, so what the hell.

And there’s nothing wrong with “free” either.

Right: I have an open day in my hands before meeting up with friends, so it’s off to the world’s best bookshop: Foyle’s, on Charing Cross Road.

They’ve modernized it, of course, [sigh] but somehow, I think I’ll manage. That’s not going to be free…

Beat Down

I came late to this little party because I was doing things like drinking with The Englishman and Mr. Free Market, and watching football with Mr. Sorenson — and also, because for some reason (ha!), the Miller/Acosta fracas never made the news Over Here — but I love it.

Basically, this is what happens when a grownup debates a foolish child: in this case, logical, factual and historical arguments applied to a peevish and foolish “open-borders” attitude complete with straw-man arguments. Miller achieved all this despite Acosta interrupting him constantly and changing the terms of the argument when he sensed he was losing.

Here’s what it’s like to debate liberals:

Acosta’s ass must be hurting like hell right now, because Miller metaphorically bent him over a desk and beat him like a red-headed stepchild. The only way this could have been any better was if he’d actually done so.

Bucket List Entry #7: Chelsea Football Club

I’ve been a fan of Chelsea since about 1972, so I can’t be accused of being a fan only after they became successful in recent years. Oh good grief, no: I remember all too well the Mediocre Years, when the Blues seemed simply content to be the perennial #5 in the league (after Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal etc). No, having suffered all that time, I’m enjoying their recent successes (European Champions League and English Premier League winners). Obviously, I’ve always wanted to watch The Lads play, and as such it’s very definitely on my Bucket List.

Today I’m going to Wembley Stadium as the guest of Longtime Brit Friend Mr. Sorenson to watch Chelsea play against hated north London rivals Arsenal in what is essentially a replay of this year’s F.A. Cup Final — which Chelsea lost (!) — so excuse me for being a little excited. I even have my old Chelsea hat, bought lo so many years ago.

Go The Blues!!!!

Update: We lost on penalties after a 1-1 tie at full-time. Ugh. But I captured a flag.

Actually, I don’t care about the result. A Bucket List Event with a good friend, with beer and good times: pure gold. Thanks, Sor.

Ah, London

Been in London nearly 24 hours as I write this, and I still haven’t heard any English spoken in the streets — well, apart from some homeless crone who screamed insults at me for not giving her any money; she was British, judging from the invective. Sadly, I had forgotten to bring my riding crop from Free Market Towers, so I just kicked her a couple of times and went on my way.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The words of Samuel Johnson come to mind whenever I visit this place, and now that I’m here, I’ve become a London groupie all over again. Man, I love this place. Yeah, it’s hectic, full of strange people, the traffic is horrible (despite the stupid congestion charge which was supposed to end congestion, but all it did was fill the streets with noxious fumes from mopeds and scooters) and it has a street layout that can reduce strong men to tears.

Don’t care. Love the place anyway.

I’d skipped dinner, having had a pie earlier at one of the stations en route, but then I got really hungry at about ten p.m. Oh boy… would anything still be open? Silly rabbit: within a block or two from my hotel (the Fleabagge Inne, near the station) I had a choice of the usual crap (i.e. Mickey D and BK — not) but also Italian, Indian (duh), Middle Eastern (double duh) and that was just heading east down the street. All those restaurants were not only open, but full, and I was just about to turn around and see what lay in the other direction when… wait a minute: was that a Turkish restaurant? Indeed it was: “Best Mangal” managed by Erhan Poyraz, open till 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and a table for one was available after about a minute’s wait. Oh yes indeed: lamb doner with about four spicy sauces, and cups of Turkish tea (which I love) followed by a little complimentary dessert of baklava and basbousa (because I’d waxed poetic to Erhan about the delicious lamb). Total cost, with tip: £12. I think I’ll go back there tonight, if I can wait that long.

Were it not for the fact that I’m walking everywhere — and sheesh, London is a big city — American would need four seats to carry my bloated ass back to Dallas.

London is the greatest city in the world. I need to hurry up and win the frigging lottery, because Mr. Free Market was telling me of a nice little 2-bedroom flat he knows about that’s just come on the market: “It’s in a decent neighborhood, dear heart: nothing but absentee Arab royalty, Russian oligarchs and Chinese diplomats. You’d have the place to yourself most of the time, and you’re just a skip away from Lord’s. It’s an absolute steal at £1.75 [million].” Unfortunately, the word “greatest” can also be applied to London’s real estate prices

Don’t care. If I had the funds, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Just not where I’m surrounded by the aforementioned wealthy scum. That’s not for me, oh no: I’d get a place where there’s a decent chippy around, and where I’d be surrounded by wealthy British scum, like Mr. FM. His town house is nearby.

Anything But Shadows

Long before most of us were born, there were The Shadows, probably the greatest “guitar band” ever, judging by the number of #1 hits they had. Yeah, they were also known as Cliff Richard’s backing band, way back in the late 1950s and 60s… and the 70s, and 80s, and 90s, and 00s.

I know, I know: the music is simple by today’s guitar “gods” — and yet, ask any of the modern guitarists worthy of the term, and without doubt almost all — Clapton, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and others — will speak in respectful tones about Hank Marvin, the Shadows’ lead guitarist, probably one of the great pickers of all time. Other musicians will speak equally as respectfully of Bruce Welch’s rhythm guitar work, the bass lines and Brian Bennett’s drums, which together produced one of the tightest sounds ever.

So hie thee hence and watch the “Shads” in action — or rather, don’t watch them because once again by today’s standards the concert is so understated it’s quite soporific — no clouds of smoke, no strobe lighting, no special effects at all: just the Shadows playing their music — rock, country, jazz, ballads — for over two hours, without a single misplaced note. (Ask any modern rock musician if they can play a two-hour concert without a single mistake, and they’ll give you a rueful look.) There’s something to be said for a fifty-year career playing together…

So don’t watch the whole show; do what I do: watch the first few songs, then carry on with your regular Saturday household activities or Internet surfing, and let the Shadows be your background music for a couple hours. Every so often, you may recognize a tune, and think, “So that’s who did it!” and smile. It’ll happen a lot, especially the smiles.

There’s no need to thank me; it’s all part of the service.

Journey Across No Man’s Land

…begins this afternoon, wherein your Humble Narrator leaves the warmth and comfort of Hardy Country for the metropolis of Londonistan:

For no reason at all, I’m starting to miss my Springfield 1911…

Anyway, I’ll be spending a couple-three days here and crossing two items off Ye Olde Buckette Lyste (details to follow) before heading north to Scottishland to check off yet a third: the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh.